Well, I had been dreaming about this day for a long time. Now it was here.
The first day was a blur. I woke up in the motel, ate some fruit loops, and struck up a conversation with an older guy named Hobb. Nice guy. Really into long distance cycling.
8 of us were starting that day, and at 6:30 we hopped in the shuttles (a suburban with big tires and a pick up truck) headed for the border. Our driver, Juan, was a great guy and very knowledgeable about the country we were about to traverse. He pointed out areas where he saw a whole bunch of pronghorn running by or where water caches were stored. Those water caches came in handy.
I was sitting in the back being nervous and talking to a younger fellow by the name of Bambi. Real cool guy. He has already done the AT and PCT and is now triple crowning. He has a super light pack (base weight of 8 lbs or something) and crushes miles. He also doesn’t cook and was showing me his peanut butter jar soak method with a mix of oats, protein powder, chia, and flax seeds. Yummy?
We left at 6:30 and got to Crazy Cook monument on the Mexican border around 9:45. Very bumpy ride. We did the whole routine of taking pictures and then taking pictures with each other’s phones, etc. For a second I thought I forgot my trekking poles but I had put them down against a bush near the monument. That would have been bad…
It was about 14 miles to the first cache. I was loaded up with 4L of water and ready to walk. “Wow, I’m really doing this” was what I was thinking for the first hour or so. That eventually turned into “Alright, desert. Yeah.” That first day went by quick. I ended up walking the last 7 miles with Bambi to the cache, and we had a nice long conversation about a bunch of stuff. That’s probably one of my favorite parts about being out here; everyone really likes to talk about stuff. I guess there’s nothing else to do but stare off into the distance or listen to music.
After the first cache, I thought (I thought…) I would head for the next windmill/cow water, but the cross country route finding was just beginning. Before that, finding the way was easy, posts with white trail markers were easily visible for the first stretch along 4wd roads, but now I had to make my way through cacti and shrubs and prickly plants from wooden post to wooden post. I was severely slowed down and ended up camping under a dope tree I found. 18 mile first day. Not too bad for starting at 10. It smelled like desert rain (oh how I love that smell) and clouds were on the horizon, but I didn’t feel like setting up the tarp and just fell asleep under the tree.
The next morning I started walking before the sunrise (they’re amazing in the desert) and came across three deer. They didn’t like me. Speaking of animals there are tons of cows where I have been walking. Most of the land is BLM land leased by ranchers. If it weren’t for the cows there probably would be no water out here. Lots of lizards, no rattlesnakes yet. Apparently there are Javelinas out here. I think the huge jack rabbits are the coolest with their ears.
Day 2 was pretty routine. After 23 miles I found another tree and sort of ditch to sleep in to get away from the wind. Jeez it was windy. About a half mile away was a ghost town called Old Hachita. Glad I didn’t camp there. Looked spooky. Over the day I walked through more of the same, yet gorgeous, open desert scenery with cattle and mountain hills in the distance. During mid day I take out my reflective umbrella for some shade. It works well. Hasn’t been too hot though. Navigating is getting better, but I swear I’m too short for the trail. Every next sign post is just out of sight over the next hill. It hasn’t proved to be a real problem at all as I have maps + compass + gps app on my phone. It also makes me hike with my head up more so I take in the scenery and pay attention to topography at the expensive of tripping over rocks and shrubs. Water hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Because of the water caches, I have never carried more than 4L at a time and have always had more than enough to make it to the next spot. I’ve been pretty clear and copious. I drank out of one pretty nasty cow trough but bleached it. By the end of day 2 I was starting to develop some blisters, which are nearly impossible to avoid with dust filling into your shoes and socks like sand paper and the rough, volcanic, rocky terrain. Oh well. I popped some that night with needle and thread, nothing too bad. I was worried that I was doing too many miles too quickly.
The nights have been pretty warm actually (like 50s?) and the moon has been bright. It’s refreshing to wake up in the middle of the night, roll over, and see all the stars you can count in the sky. I’ve also decided my favorite time of day for sky-neatness is about 30 minutes after sunset (kids call it dusk these days?). There is a faint glowing orange/yellow that rims the west, bonus points if it silhouettes mountains, and the rest of the sky gets progressively deeper blue going east. Deeper than Joni Mitchell blue. A few stars or a planet pop out. Wow, I’m giddy just thinking about it. What am I doing in this motel room? Resting, right.
Day 3 was marathon both actually and mentally. I didn’t think I would end up doing 26 miles but that’s sort of how it worked out. I raced from one cache to the next and ended up talking to Radar for a while. He was maintaining the caches for us. Great guy. Then I dropped into this long long field with pyramid peak way in the distance. Shucks my feet hurt. I decided to camp at the next water I found. However, I ran into Michael, from Brisbane, Australia, and Harley and we hoofed it late into the early evening to a cow tank. That night I cooked the best meal: Kraft Mac and cheese with jalapeño tuna mixed in. Gee wowie. Call it a zambonie and watch me chowie.
Day 4 Harley and I walked to the last water cache and met a trail angel named Apple who had some ice cold sodas waiting for us (thank you!). He told us a crazy story about a hiker last year who came across a ditched back pack full of marijuana. He called border patrol and apparently helicopters were flying in. Must have been a fun situation to sort through. Before we knew it, we were back in Lordsburg. We even helped a lady find her lost poodle! It jumped out of a truck to become a coyote I guess.
Overall the first leg was great. I did way more miles than I thought I would, which is kinda good and bad. I got to catch up to some new people and rest sooner, but my legs and feet took some physical beating. Probably would’ve been the same had I taken an extra day. Who knows. I just hope my legs hold up and my blisters don’t get bad. I’ve also been slightly questioning having the guitar on trail. It is really nice to have every now and then, but I feel like I don’t use it enough to justify lugging it around. I also really regretted not bringing reading material for the first leg. Last summer in the Mojave desert I read Dune. Probably the best combo ever. I just went to the dollar store and bought Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Should be an interesting read.
Next up is Silver City! Should be a cool town from everything I’ve heard. Here’s a little verse I wrote while talking out loud to myself at some point:
“Well I’m on my way to Canada
I ain’t got no food or cash
I’ll sleep on your bathroom floor
Well they call me hiker trash”